Human rights attorney Coleman offers a relentlessly, if unconvincingly, optimistic view of the future that might be ushered in by artificial intelligence, even while arguing that time is running out if humans are to take the steps necessary to control that future. Hers is a clarion call to implement AI correctly, by creating technology that promotes the best humanity has to offer. Coleman argues that diverse voices are needed to accomplish this and ensure that the next generation of smart machines doesn’t incorporate human biases, and that it “is incumbent upon us to attempt to design and implement an ethical framework” into AI. Unfortunately, she points out, most AI leaders “have received virtually no training in the ethical ramifications of creating intelligent machines.” Nonetheless, even as she explains that AI will soon replace approximately 45% of all American jobs, including those of white-collar professionals such as surgeons and writers, and predicts that AI will soon surpass humans as the planet’s most intelligent entities, Coleman remains resolute in her belief that sentient machines can be fairer, more moral, and more empathetic than their creators. This treatise is unlikely to satisfy many that humanity’s future is in good hands, though she presents enough facts and color to compensate. (Oct.)
Praise for A Human Algorithm
Long-listed for the Porchlight Business Book Award for Big Ideas & New Perspectives
“What does artificial intelligence mean, where is it going, and how will it affect us? We’re currently on a very steep part of the technology curve, and Flynn Coleman is a wonderfully astute, perceptive, and reliable guide as we ascend into our future.” David Eagleman, neuroscientist at Stanford University and New York Times bestselling author
"How do we define artificial intelligence (AI)? Is it emotional intelligence or purely factual knowledge? Coleman addresses these questions in this gripping, personal first book on the triumphs and dangers of technology . . . With quotes and research from scientists, researchers, authors, and even poets, Coleman mixes her own viewpoints with those of scholars in this easy-to-read work. Readers of John C. Havens's Heartificial Intelligence and Max Tegmark's Life 3.0 will appreciate this new take on the relationship between humans and AI . . . It's a must read for both the cyber crowds and those interested in human psychology." Library Journal
"[An] earnest, meaty investigation of the ideal future of how we work with intelligent technologies . . . Coleman necessarily operates in the realm of conjecture because she grapples with age-old questions and the unframed future. However, AI's rapidly expanding capacity for autonomy suggests that these are the very questions that must be addressed now . . . An energetic, holistic consideration of AI's potentialities to impact our lives in profound ways." Kirkus Reviews
"A Human Algorithm is intentionally positioned as an optimistic book, one that recognizes the challenges but affirms our human capacity to rise up to them. History shows (and the book details) that people have a marked capacity to integrate new technologies into their lives, even as both horrific and honorable applications may ensue. The Digital Age (which Coleman wisely pronounces as 'now ending') may be unique for the rate and magnitude of the changes being experienced and the unprecedented nature of the frontiers being pushed, but the general patterns remain intact . . . In A Human Algorithm, Flynn Coleman admirably has uploaded a clear data point on the side of the good. The book is not, however, an idealistic portico onto a rose-colored tomorrow; Coleman is keenly aware of the existential implications and the narrow window of opportunity at hand. The urgent task is to rapidly reclaim and amplify the best of ourselves, and this book is a step on that journey. In addition to urging people to read itespecially those directly involved with writing the algorithms that will set tomorrow’s templateone sincerely hopes the machines will do so as well." Randall Amster, New York Journal of Books
"[Coleman] argue[s] that the algorithms of machine learningif they are instilled with human ethics and valuescould bring about a new era of enlightenment." James Sullivan, San Francisco Chronicle
"Enlightening and disturbing." Marcie Mathis, SWE Magazine
“This book is urgently needed. Humanity can’t afford to ignore the horrendous possibilities that lie ahead should we fail to imbue artificial intelligence with the values of empathy and compassion. We need to consciously protect and nurture our deepest values as we forge new technological frontiers. The time to do it is now, and this is the book to show us how.” Marianne Williamson
“The era of thinking machines is no longer the stuff of science fiction; it is our present reality. In this compulsively readable, mind-bending book, Flynn Coleman encourages us to start grappling now with the daunting challenges ‘the Intelligent Machine Age’ presents to our conception of what it means to be human. A Human Algorithm is more than a book; it is a manifesto for our times.” Reza Aslan, author of God: A Human History
“Amid an increasingly interconnected and divided world, humanity is facing a critical need for moral leadership and character to solve the issues of our present and future. A Human Algorithm reminds us powerfully to recognize the importance of developing a moral framework for our world’s next major stakeholderartificial intelligencein shaping a more just and equal society." Jacqueline Novogratz, author of The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap Between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World
"In this beautifully written tome, A Human Algorithm, Flynn Coleman captures the essence of a world where compassionate and empathetic AI is possible. This book is a must-read for parents, educators, and anyone who wants to build a better world." Shaka Senghor, author of Writing My Wrongs
“Flynn Coleman will forever change the way you think about computers and our future. More important, though, she will change the way you think about humanity.” Seth Godin, author of This Is Marketing
A writer, human rights attorney, and public speaker explores how our relationship with intelligent technologies will help us reimagine what it means to be human.
In this earnest, meaty investigation of the ideal future of how we work with intelligent technologies, Coleman posits that we are at the end of the last cycle of technological development led entirely by humans. Artificial intelligence will be a partner in defining the next era of our technological future. Right now, she writes, "we are alarmingly unready for the reality of powerful AI that reaches conclusions and decisions independent from human intervention." We are training machines to teach themselves with AI algorithms that allow computers to learn on their own rather than be incrementally programmed. It is vital, Coleman implores, that we incorporate core human beliefs into AI values. This will open up an encompassing reappraisal of not just the human place in the cosmos; we will need to address the nature of consciousness as it relates to AI and ourselves. Currently, we haven't locked in "a complete definition of synthetic intelligence, much less shape[d] the regulations, rules, codes, values, and laws needed to guide it." The author examines a host of relevant concerns—the role of curiosity, what rights will be afforded AI machinery, and the question of whether a self-aware robot has a soul (whatever that is)—and she emphasizes the importance of transparency, inclusive thinking, and the building of compassion, quality of life, and fairness into the machines to construct a moral imagination. Coleman necessarily operates in the realm of conjecture because she grapples with age-old questions and the unframed future. However, AI's rapidly expanding capacity for autonomy suggests that these are the very questions that must be addressed now. How we choose to develop synthetic intelligence will tell us how we will protect and expand our rights and freedoms in the future.
An energetic, holistic consideration of AI's potentialities to impact our lives in profound ways.